No more than 48 hours into the University of Washington’s fall football camp last season, it was easy to draw one conclusion about troubled players who started in coach Tyrone Willingham’s doghouse.
They usually stayed there.
That era is over – and for many, thankfully. Steve Sarkisian is the new coach, and he went out of his way from the day he was hired last December to give every team member “a clean slate” moving forward.
No wonder linebacker E.J. Savannah feels replenished and eager to contribute. The closest he got to seeing action last season was, well … seeing it from the sideline.
“This is my last chance, really. I’ve got to make it count,” said Savannah, the leading tackler at linebacker for the Huskies in 2007. “That is part of the main focus now.”
Eight to 10 UW players, Sarkisian said, have taken crucial steps in re-establishing themselves as reliable members of this team.
He mentioned guys such as offensive lineman Ben Ossai and running back Chris Polk, who might have earned the classic underachiever tag last season.
Or players such as Savannah, who was suspended by Willingham for the entire 2008 season because of academic problems and off-the-field transgressions. Or tight end Chris Izbicki, who faced charges of second-degree criminal trespassing and minor in possession of alcohol last summer.
Izbicki wasn’t suspended, but instead was relegated to scout-team duties, seeing no game action.
“It was miserable last season. (Coaches) pushed me to the point, I was struggling to still truly be in love with playing football,” Izbicki said.
Was it punishment without parole?
“It was a punishment, I’m not going to lie,” said Izbicki, who is bidding to be the starting tight end this fall in competition with former Lakes High standout Kavario Middleton. “I tried to get back on the field, did whatever I could. It never worked out for me.”
With Sarkisian’s arrival from Southern California, whatever happened in the past at UW has stayed there.
“Sometimes you feel (as a player), ‘Man, I made so many wrong decisions, or things aren’t going my way that it’s doom and gloom.’ When you sometimes have a ray of hope and an opportunity there, it can motivate you,” Sarkisian said.
“I think with our team right now, we have quite a few guys that have been motivated to the point of, ‘Man I’ve got an opportunity and I want to make the most of it.’
“We have a lot of guys who maybe put some things on film last year, especially in the second half, they’d be the first to tell you they’re not proud of the effort they played with. We wiped the slate clean (of) that, and we’re going to give them every opportunity to show who they are on this field every day.”
A day after junior-college cornerback Dominique Gaisie practiced with the team, he has been suspended indefinitely. The NCAA’s Eligibility Clearinghouse ruled that a couple of Gaisie’s courses did not transfer properly. Sarkisian said he’s unsure when the matter will get resolved. … What was the course at Wilson High School that cornerback Desmond Trufant took that was deemed invalid by the NCAA? “Sign language,” he said from the sideline. He is replacing it by taking a general core class. … Receiver Devin Aguilar (toe) was slowed Tuesday, and defensive lineman Talia Crichton (groin) was held out of practice. Also, offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto could barely walk after he was “leg-whipped” by one of his players during a drill. … The team will be in shoulder pads starting today, and will be in full uniform starting Saturday. “As we call it in the football world, we’re in underwear right now,” Sarkisian said. … Besides the scheduled Aug. 18 scrimmage, another one will be take place later in fall camp.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442